Woolies nearly out of pokies part 3 - Alliance for Gambling Reform

How to not let legislated limits stop you

Woolies nearly out of pokies - part 3

Here is yet another example of how the gambling industry has managed to write legislation to make it work for them, and how one family is able to control a huge portion of the Hotel pokies market in Victoria. The Mathieson family interests in the Hotel pokies den market highlights corporate capture at it’s finest.

In Victoria, Australian Leisure and Hospitality Group (ALH) aka Endeavour Group holds 4,690 entitlements to operate poker machines. If ALH could legally own more, they would and have been approved to operate 5,493. Although, in Victoria, no one individual or organisation may have an interest in more than 35% of Hotel pokies entitlements. With a total of 13,686 Hotel pokies in Victoria, and a stake in two other venues which combined have 100 entitlements, Mathieson finds himself with exactly the 35% at 4,790 entitlements. You would think this is as far as he could go, but there are always ways around the legislation. 

Mathieson has three kids, two daughters and a son. His two daughters, alongside their husbands, are pokies pub owners and his son is heavily involved in ALH, for a while being the CEO and is now the managing director for Hotels at Endeavour. It’s truly a family affair. 

Jodi Grollo, Mathieson’s daughter and her husband, Gianni Grollo own Pubco, otherwise known as the Supreme Hotels in Victoria. They own 467 poker machines and 10 venues.

Deborah Mathieson-Tomsic, Mathieson’s other daughter, and her husband David Tomsic own the Black Rhino Group, who have 1,028 poker machines and 20 venues in Victoria. 

So if you add Mathieson’s family venues, they own 6,185, or 45% of all of the Hotel poker machines in Victoria. 

The legislation goes that you cannot have a ‘prescribed connection’ which means there is a power or interest in the gambling business of two entitlement holders that would allow a party to have a significant influence over the business and management of the gambling business of each entitlement holder. The Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation is convinced this family affair by itself does not constitute a prescribed connection. 

And wait, it gets worse. One of our incredible volunteers, Carolyn, worked tirelessly to find out the opening hours of all poker machine rooms around the state. It was clear that the poker machine operating hours are  staggered, so that when one closes they can tell patrons to visit their other venue that just opened down the road. They also very often had 20 hours of operation (less so in regional Victoria). 

She also looked at the average losses per year of each EGM in the Mathieson family pokies pool. Again, staggering. As ALH are licenced to operate more machines than they can physically hold onto, it appears they strategically place them in areas which will bring in the most ‘profit’ and ultimately cause the most harm. The poker machines in some of the venues owned by this family are some of the highest loss, highest harm venues in the state. 

We can’t help but think when this family gets together around the dinner table they must be laughing at the Victorian Government for allowing such loopholes which allows them to take hundreds of millions of dollars from Victorians most vulnerable and puts it straight in their pockets. 

*It’s important to note the analysis of opening hours and poker machine losses data has come from publicly available VCGLR data and venue websites and social media pages.

 

Staggered opening hours of ALH examples

 

Venue

Municipality

Opening hours

Distance apart

ALBION CHARLES HOTEL

Darebin 

12pm to 8am

5km away

CRAMERS HOTEL

Darebin

8am to 4am

PIER HOTEL

Frankston

11am to 7am

10km away

SANDS TAVERNER

Frankston

7am to 1am

COOLAROO TAVERNER

Hume

8am to 4am

4km

MEADOW INN HOTEL

Hume

12pm to 8am

FERNTREE GULLY HOTEL

Knox

11am to 7am

1.3km 

THE ROYAL HOTEL FERNTREE GULLY

Knox

7am to 3am

MONASH HOTEL

Monash

12am to 8am

2km

THE VALE HOTEL

Monash

7am to 3am